A 10-storey building could rise up along the shores of Nanaimo.
The City of Nanaimo has received a rezoning application from Waterfront Holdings Ltd. for a proposed 10-storey hotel and condominium complete with two conference rooms, a restaurant and cocktail bar at 1000 Stewart Avenue. The existing Waterfront Suites and Marina building would be demolished, should the project come to fruition.
According to documents available on the city’s website, the hotel would be approximately 45 metres tall and would feature a 732.5-square metre conference room and restaurant and a 555-square metre cocktail bar and lounge.
The property is currently zoned as ‘harbour waterfront,’ which restricts building height to four storeys above Stewart Avenue. It is also designed as ‘medium high density waterfront’ in the Newcastle-Brechin neighbourhood plan, which stipulates that additional height can be considered if “additional amenities” such as crosswalks, pedestrian overpasses, commercial storefronts, bike paths or public art are provided.
Odai Sirri, director of asset management for Waterfront Holdings, told the News Bulletin that the new hotel will have approximately 130 units in total, with about 110 units designated for hotel use. He said the project has been in the works for years and that his he and his family have been wanting to build on the Stewart Avenue property since purchasing it more than a decade ago.
“We’ve been talking about this project for a long time,” Sirri said. “We became involved in the project and property in 2009 and when we talked to the city about in back in 2009, we said the key to this project is to start from scratch and put in a new development on the waterfront.”
The Stewart Avenue property is unique because it is among a handful along the waterfront that can be developed to such a scale because the land is freehold and not leased according to Sirri. He said given that status combined with its proximity to downtown and its walkability to other amenities, it is important to create a project that will have a positive impact on the community.
“We want to do something meaningful, something substantial that the city and the community will take pride in and I think this is one of those signature sites to do it on,” Sirri said. “It’s really shining a light on the waterfront and saying this is our gem, this is where people want to come, this is where they want to congregate and socialize.”
Sirri said he wants to create a building with a “contemporary design” that “speaks to wants and needs” of the community all while providing better access to the waterfront.
“It checks all those boxes…” he said. “Having a development like this means you have access to services and amenities in your community that are walkable and that is really important.”
Lainya Rowett, the city’s manager of current planning, said 1000 Stewart Ave. is a unique property and one of Nanaimo’s “landmark” sites. She said re-zoning is needed because Waterfront Holdings is seeking increased height and density, but that the project won’t be going before council anytime soon.
“We’re not even at the stage where we can say whether or not we have everything we need to move forward to council and present a bylaw that outlines everything,” she said.
Lee-Anne Stark, vice-president of the Newcastle Neighbourhood Association, said her organization is supportive of the proposal. She said over the months a variety of neighbours had the opportunity to share their feelings about the project and the general consensus is that development will be good for the community.
“We thought it was a beautiful project, we thought they had done a very good job,” she said.
One thing the association would like to see included in the development is a crosswalk installed at Cypress Street and Stewart Avenue, which is the nearest intersection to the property. Stark said the association has spent years advocating for improved pedestrian safety along Stewart Avenue and would like to see an improvement at that intersection.
“That connects right down into the walkway and it makes absolute sense for a crosswalk to be there,” she said.
However, Rowett said any changes to Stewart Avenue would need to be approved by the Ministry of Transportation.
At the end of the day, Sirri said he hopes the project will spark a conversation in the community, which is something he encourages.
“I would encourage in Nanaimo to take part in the public conversation and the public discussion about the project because it takes a community to determine what it wants to see its community look like in a few years and over the next generation,” he said.